Frederick Douglass: “Fourth of July” Speech

(1852)

The Fourth of July Speech is the most famous address delivered by the abolitionist and civil rights advocate Frederick Douglass. In the nineteenth century, many American communities and cities celebrated Independence Day with a ceremonial reading of the Declaration of Independence, which was usually followed by an oral address or speech dedicated to the celebration of independence and the heritage of the American Revolution and the Founding Fathers. On July 5, 1852, the Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society of Rochester, New York, invited Douglass to be the keynote speaker for their Independence Day celebration.

The Fourth of July Speech, scheduled for Rochester's Corinthian Hall, attracted a crowd of between five hundred and six hundred, each of whom paid twelve and a half cents admission. The meeting opened with a prayer offered by the Reverend S. Ottman of Rush, New York, followed by a reading of the Declaration of Independence by the Reverend Robert R. Raymond of Syracuse, New...

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Frederick Douglass (Library of Congress)

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